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Polish family of patrons and collectors. Their patronage was influential from the late 16th century to the early 19th. They held the highest offices and owned vast estates in the eastern part of the Commonwealth of Two Nations, including main seats at Nieśwież (now Nesvizh, Belarus), Ołyka (now Olyka, Ukraine), Birże (now Biržoi, Lithuania) and Biała Podlaska. They were prominent representatives of Sarmatian Baroque culture and aimed to glorify the family, its genealogy and military achievements. They built magnificent residences in the prevailing fortified castle style (mostly destr.), established art collections (mostly untraced, although a number of laurel-wreathed portraits are now in the Belarus Art Museum, Minsk), and members of both Catholic and Calvinist lines founded many ecclesiastical buildings. The castle at Nieśwież, with twelve great halls and seven gilt domes, was begun in 1583 for Mikołaj Krzysztof Radziwiłł (‘Sierotka’, 1549–1616), who established there the family portrait gallery, a library and armoury. A devout Catholic, he founded the Jesuit monastery at Nieśwież, which has one of the first Polish Baroque churches (1586–99), inspired by Il Gesù in Rome. Mikołaj Krzysztof's architect was the Jesuit Giovanni Maria Bernardoni (1541–1605); among the other artists who worked for him were the engravers and cartographers Maciej Strubicz (c. 1530–c. 1604) and Tomasz Makowski (c. 1575–c. 1630).

From The Grove Encyclopedia of Northern Renaissance Art in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Renaissance Art.

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